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Residents dissuade Ozawa on homeless centers for East Honolulu, Waikiki

  • STAR-ADVERTISER / FEB. 5

    The hygiene center on North Pauahi Street has been criticized by City Council members as small, dirty and uninviting.

City Councilman Trevor Ozawa was in favor of having either a tent city or a public shower for the homeless in his East Honolulu to Waikiki district, but after hearing from constituents he’s had a change of heart.

“(I) got a lot of feedback from the community, especially several neighborhood board members in Waikiki who were absolutely against it,” Ozawa said last week following a Waikiki Neighborhood Board meeting.

Even though he said others backed the idea, Ozawa said now is not the time.

“I think that a hygiene center in Waikiki one day will be appropriate. As far as being the first ‘urban rest stop’ in Honolulu, I don’t think Waikiki is ready for it right now. … Maybe the third or fourth or fifth one would be helpful to the community in Waikiki at that time. It shouldn’t be the first one.”

Ozawa, Council Chairman Ernie Martin and Councilman Joey Manahan last month endorsed Seattle- style public showers and tent cities across Oahu to augment the city’s Hale Mauliola community on Sand Island, where formerly homeless clients live in converted shipping containers and get on-site social service help.

Although Ozawa no longer supports having facilities in his district, Martin said last week that he still plans to be the first of nine Council members to embrace either a city-sanctioned tent city — he prefers the term “temporary encampment” — or a so-called “hygiene center” or “urban rest stop” for homeless people in his district, which encompasses 40 percent of the island from Mililani Mauka to Kahaluu.

“That’s my goal, man,” Martin said. “They better race me to it. You’ve got to lead by example. It’s easy to sit on the sidelines and pass judgment. You’ve gotta be willing to get your hands dirty.”

The hygiene centers are intended to offer multiple showers, toilets, sinks, washers and dryers and, perhaps more importantly, social service help getting homeless people jobs and long-term housing through a concept known as a “navigation center,” Martin said.

For businesses and frustrated neighbors, the hygiene centers also are intended to help keep sidewalks and storefronts clear of human urine and feces while giving homeless people a sense of dignity.

Like the hygiene centers, Martin’s idea for a tent city also would be based on the model of a Seattle nonprofit group that uses a mix of camping tents and 120-square-foot “tiny houses” that are supposed to rotate to different locations every few years.

Seattle’s Low Income Housing Institute opened its latest urban rest stop at a cost of $1.5 million.

Martin previously identified potential locations for underused city property, such as the ground floor of Chinatown’s Gateway Plaza or the Hauula Civic Center, which he expects would bring costs down.

Martin still has not found a good location for a potential tent city in his district, but he is now talking to Kahuku Medical Center about possibly hosting a hygiene center.

The facility would be located inside, or perhaps on an acre of adjacent city land, said the medical center’s CEO, Stephany Vaioleti.

“Yes, we have expressed interest,” Vaioleti said. “It’s a community issue. A lot of homeless come through our facility.”

It’s difficult for doctors to discharge homeless patients knowing they may be at greater risk of assaults and crime in their weakened state, Vaioleti said.

“All the hospitals struggle with that,” she said. “The person is still at risk for harm and just doesn’t have those basic needs being met. Health care has to perhaps expand its role.”

Martin also has his eye on a vacant building in his district, off Kamehameha Highway in Wahiawa, close to the nonprofit Surfing the Nations organization that is offering help and bathrooms to homeless people.

“It’s in an excellent location,” Martin said. “We’re going to do our due diligence to identify the owners and gauge their interest in allowing the city to acquire and utilize the property for a potential hygiene navigation center.”

Martin, Ozawa and Manahan all have criticized the city’s only version of a hygiene center on North Pauahi Street next to the city’s Pauahi Hale low-income housing complex.

The city renovated the separate men’s and women’s showers and toilets last year at a cost of $120,000.

The Council members say it’s dirty, small and uninviting — a characterization that Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s administration disputes.

But the Chinatown shower facility does not offer washers and dryers or on-site social service help that Martin and Manahan hope to duplicate in their districts using the Seattle model.

Manahan also wants both a tent city and a hygiene center in his district, possibly in Kalihi, Iwilei or Mapunapuna. And he wants them to be as close together as reasonable so homeless people can take advantage of both facilities.

“I’m very much in favor of both,” Manahan said. “Let’s do it and let’s do it right.”

Caldwell’s staff has consulted Manahan to discuss possible locations for a hygiene center, a gesture that Manahan said he appreciated.

The staff members told Manahan they are in negotiations over buying a potential location in his district but could not be specific because a deal has not been reached.

“They really wanted to do a hygiene center,” Manahan said. “I thought it was very positive and I’m going to be very supportive.”

He hopes it can accommodate 60 to 100 showers for homeless people per day, along with laundry facilities and social service help.

Unlike Ozawa, Manahan said he’s received “no push back. It’s better than what we’re experiencing now, trust me.”

The bigger issue may be finding a location for a tent city — or “temporary encampment” — in Manahan’s district that he hopes could house 30 to 40 people.

“We have to find some open space,” Manahan said.

Martin understands why some neighbors in Ozawa’s district from East Honolulu through Waikiki don’t want either a tent city or a hygiene center.

Waikiki, in particular, is “a key tourism site,” Martin said.

But he said his district needs help. And Martin said he believes that tent cities and hygiene centers are part of the solution.

“For my district,” Martin said, “it’s full steam ahead.”

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  • So we’ve given up, admit homelessness will forever be an intricate part of Honolulu, and must now pander to the homeless by giving them FREE (for them) “relief/hygiene centers” and various other forms of shelter.
    That the homeless have no sense of ownership of the centers/shelters/public toilets shows quite clearly by their continual abuse and misuse of public facilities.
    “Aloha” only extends so far before people reach a snapping point as politicians continually appoint “task forces” and committees to look at something they just cannot admit they would rather kick down the road after they’ve moved on or are collecting their pensions.

    • Utter resignation. That’s how Hawaii rolls. Hence our name always coming out on the WRONG list of every type of ratings poll. They don’t actually DEAL with anything.

    • Correct! It’s like adult kids….If you want them to stay forever, continue to coddle them. If you want them to leave and be independent, tough love always works.

    • As a taxpayer, it’s become quite tiresome having to foot the bill for all of these “free” centers. I really wish I had a solution, but it doesn’t look like there is one other than arresting the ones who trespass and refuse to seek shelter at IHS or the like.

    • There have always been homeless people in Honolulu. The difference is that they used to live in more remote locations so we did not notice them as much and in fact they used to live in informal camps. As a kid I used to see them at Keehi lagoon and even near Hawaii Kai. Maybe we need to rethink the notion that we need to save the homeless. Yes we need to offer help because most people who fall into homelessness do find their way out with some kokua. Instead of breaking down their camps, maybe we need to find a place for them to actually go and camp. Someplace near the airport or someplace like there. Just provide a dumpster for trash, maybe a water line, nuff. Just put them out there and leave them alone.

  • Finally a Councilman listens to his constituents unlike Ernie Martin whose self interest ways goes against his constituents who mostly, according to him, are against rail, yet he continues to support rail.

  • right on Ozawa, you listened to your constituents. Keep’um in Kalihi, always been a choke point for cra….paddle at Sand Island…. S… hole there is empty. Looks like a prison, could use more there. OCCC is there so stands to reason to continue to put the homeless there along with Sand Island treatment plant. KPT also in the district. Yup Ernie full steam ahead with your sh.. Hole…. at least it doesn’t have to travel far to the treatment plant.

  • Typical East Honolulu hypocrisy. Just like their support for Rail as long as it wasn’t built in their neighborhood blocking their ocean views when the majority of Leeward residents were opposed to it. Helping the homeless is good for everyone else as long as it’s not in your neighborhood.

  • Gotta agree with Ozawa on this. Why ruin Waikiki by encouraging more mainlanders to come and be homeless? Local homeless rather be somewhere else anyway. NIMBY maybe but this one gets a pass for common sense reasons.

  • If the City plans on buying properties for the homeless, it better not be currently zoned for residential, country, agricultural, or preservation.

    If the City does purchase a lot zoned residential, country, etc. we need to ban together, regardless of the district, to fight any zone changes. Otherwise, using these types of properties will put the homeless situation in a backyard near you.

  • Duh! Who wants homeless in their back yards? No one. However, if these do gooders who want to help, get your heads together to come up with a workable solution. Geez. Fair distribution of homeless should be a mandatory city concern. We have more than our share here in the Kalihi area, yet it was suggested that we home the homeless in grass shacks! Now what more can we expect from our leaders?

    There are islands that need habitation, there are areas that we can use to house the homeless, get rid of all them rules and regulations and offer them an area where they can peacefully co exist. Teach them how to work, teach them how to be self sustaining and for the Lord’s sake, please stop making them a burden to the general population, our taxpayers. Wake up Ozawa and other council members, get your heads out of the grass and let’s do something.

  • Why provide anything more for the homeless? We already have shelters that have around 600 empty beds every night. Stop giving them more and the homeless will eventually go to the shelters. Also, the churches and charities providing food and clothing to the homeless need to ONLY do so at the shelters.

  • Ozawa is listening to his constituents because if you want to remain in office you MUST listen to what the People want.

    Fortunately, his time doesn’t expire till 2018.

    Major accomplishment: baby changing stations in public restrooms.

  • There’s no need for homeless facilities in every district, that sounds like a wasteful use of taxpayer money purely so each council member can their cut of the homeless pie for their district, whether needed or not. Kakaako, Kalihi and Leeward coast make sense since that’s where most of the homeless are concentrated. Putting a homeless facility in Waikiki or east honolulu is the dumbest idea yet. What is Ozawa thinking? Does he not know who his constituents are? This was a serious error in judgement that will probably come back to haunt him at election time. Not too bright at all.

    • Saywhatyouthink……………Kalihi? OMG where do you live? are you in a grass shack too? Kalihi has more than our share, time for you to do yours and put them in your backyard. You think we want more? Keep your a… clean and eyes open to your area and what it could do.

    • no, we need to share the homeless population, need a homeless tent city and hygiene center in each area so each area will share in the problem of homelessness. believe the homeless would like to live in the more affluent areas, more things to steal.

      • Homeless flock to locations where aid and food exists. Why is there virtually no homeless in east honolulu? It’s because there are no bleeding hearts to enable and pander to their existence. Eastside churches and businesses stay out of it for self-preservation. When you don’t feed the “pigeons” they don’t stay.

        I used to volunteer at IHS. The ones that want to re-enter society are in shelters. Those that choose the homeless lifestyle are on the streets. Don’t like the shelter curfew, rules or zero substance abuse policy – that’s a choice bud. Supposedly there’s a homeless crisis yet open beds in shelters. So the county wants to build new shelters with less rules to make it more convenient. Wrong move. The goal should be to make it burdensome to live on the streets so homeless can seek the help they need in a shelter.

  • The plight of the homeless, the battle between communities and politicians will never end. Never. We need to face these facts. This afternoon a man with very dirty swim shorts, no shirt, and covered in mud was hiding by my car near the Keeaumoku McDonald’s. I asked him what was wrong as he peeped up from the front of my car and ducked back again. Someone was after him. He crept along my car and then vaulted over a brick wall, only to vault over again and begin scanning for this “pursuer”, all the while asking me to keep quiet or “they” will hear. He ran off in the rain, the downpour having no effect whatsoever in ridding his body of the mud…

    • Wow, something you’d read out of a suspense novel.

      There are mental health/drug abuse problems within the homeless that communities & Council members need to consider.

      This approach of having a ‘mobile’ court discipline the homeless who have committed non-violent crimes – are the mental health/drug abusers in some cases.

  • is this the guy who wants to punish people when someone steals their property by fining them? Eh, what about the person who stole the property? just let him go. is this the new justice?

  • Thanks Ozawa! Waikiki is an economic engine for our State. We sell an illusion of paradise so you are doing your duty by finding a solution outside of our showcase.

  • Agree with ‘gmejk’ and ‘sccoutt’. Tough love is what needed, just like what many should do with their free loading adult kids who live at home. Homelessness itself is not criminal, however, what homeless do on public or other private properties (loitering, blocking occupying, defecating,…) are criminal offenses and should be punished. We are being too easy on them especially ones who refuse to go to shelters because they don’t want to follow rules. There are no incentives for them to work/school and better themselves. Why should they when we allow them to live free outside on beach front properties, free meals delivered to them, free medical, free services, …. ridiculous. Our laws/policies only encourage more homeless to come here.

    Regarding Ozawa, I knew he would back paddle once he hears from his East Honolulu constituents. He should have thought about it before he opened his mouth !

  • The “Lead-Photograph” simply underlines the fact that the City/County are malfeasant and neglecting the ongoing maintenance of the existing Rest Room facilities. Anyone with an experienced-eye can see that the condition of that bathroom is a result of age, wear-and-tear, and maintenance neglect. It’s not a result of THE HOMELESS use, per se. Moreover, if you review the condition of the Rest Rooms in Ala Moana Park–they have been in that condition for a very long time (also the SHOWERS).

  • Tell Ozawa that Waialae Kahala has a perfect wide open space on Hunakai St for a homeless encampent. It is a private park however like the rail project they can use eminent domain to force the sale so that homless can live close to Kahala Mall, Waialae Country Club and all of Hawaii’s big wigs and rich people who live in the area. Just kidding, Kirk wasted the opportunity for an ideal tent city park at the Sand Island site. Instead he iwasted paying contractors to build expensive outhouse style container dwellings when it should remain open for homeless to pitch their tents and provice clean port a potties, mobile showers and security detail and leadership consisting of homeless living there who will create a sense of place and ownership. No drug use or trouble makers who will get kicked out by the homeless ‘counsel’ overseeing their Sand island encampment. Add regularly scheduled counselors to encourage them to find work and get mental counseling and go from there. Sucess of a homeless encampment goes way BEYOND just the physical location or buidling expensive bathroom or shower facilities but this concept seems beyond Kirk and the city Council.

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